Do you accept everyone who wants to come?
No. We receive many inquiries every week. Unfortunately, we can not accept everyone. When looking at applicants, we lean toward those who lead a healthy, active lifestyle, are accustomed to physical work, and are interested in cultural integration while in the country. Although we look for those who speak at least some Spanish, practice a vegan or vegetarian diet, and have a skill or experience which will be helpful to us on the farm, we also accept those without those qualifications who are seeking the experience for the right reasons.
We are uninterested in those coming to Costa Rica to party, coming for a free vacation, those applying to every farm on their respective work exchange site (wwoof, helpx, workaway, etc.) without regard to the specific arrangement, those with no interest in learning the language, no interest in meeting our friends and neighbors, or those who don’t care for animals. Basically, we’re looking for those who want to be here for the right reasons.
Through the wwoof and workaway programs exclusively, we offer a free work/stay exchange. We provide a tent platform, tent & bag, plus meals as indicated below. The minimum stay is two weeks. We only accept those with a specific skill or experience level which would be of apparent value to the farm.
Through other programs, such as Helpx, Go Overseas, Volunteer Latin America (or persons finding us through facebook, google, etc.), we offer a program with shared indoor lodging at $50 per week, with breakfast and lunch provided on working days, with pasta, beans and rice available for you to prepare in the evenings.We can accommodate up to five persons at any given point in time. The minimum stay is two weeks.
If you have interest in coming, please complete the questionnaire/application (see page link at left), and if you appear to be a good fit and we have space during your time of travel, we will be more than happy to host you!
My flight comes in late. What should I do?
If you feel you can not make it to the farm by 7 pm, you should consider staying the night near the airport (Alajuela) or in San Jose and coming out the next morning. We accept work/stay guests on the farm through 7 pm. As we all get up pretty early (and go to bed early as well), arrivals later in the evening make it harder for all the next morning!
How do I get around once I’m there?
The bus system in Costa Rica is extensive, as the majority of the population utilizes public transportation. Our property is located on a major bus route. You can catch a number of buses throughout the day heading in three directions from right outside the farm. You can get as far as Turrialba and Cartago from these buses, and catch connecting buses from those cities. As a result, you can get to any destination in the country from right outside our door! You can download a printer-friendly copy of the bus schedule here.
What’s there to do?
Where do we begin? There is so much to explore! If you enjoy adventure sports, our area is a hub for white water rafting and kayaking trips. You can raft the Pacuare, Pejivalle or Reventazon. If you enjoy hiking and birdwatching, La Marta biological preserve is located just outside our neighboring village of Pejivalle. A great day trip could include a visit to Guyabo National Archaeological Monument. A local guide can take you to the Las Vueltas waterfalls or show you the local trapiche – a 100 year old sugar cane plant.
We have some local Costa Ricans that will act as your guide on half-day excursions. These tours are done only for our guests – this is not a commercial business. One tour shows you cacao processing. Another is a hike to a local, remote waterfall and then a 100+ year old sugar cane processing mill. These tours cost $15 and include lunch.
If you are looking for surf or sand, you can also take an excursion to the beaches, either on the Atlantic or Pacific side. You can also head toward one of Costa Rica’s many volcanoes. If you are looking for a community-based volunteer activity off the farm, you could volunteer at one of the local schools (they love help with their English classes), give guitar lessons to local children, or participate in any number of volunteer activities. The Costa Rican children love a planned activity. If you plan one and spread the word, they will come!
What is the weather like?
Because Costa Rica is located between 8 and 12 degrees north of the Equator, the climate is tropical year round. However, the country has many microclimates depending on elevation, rainfall, topography, and by the geography of each particular region. Our area has a very moderate climate, with no need for heat or air conditioning at any point during the year. It is generally in the 80’s during the day and the high 60’s at night. Perfect! That is not the case in all areas of the country – the coastal regions are very hot and humid, and the mountain tops can be very cold!
Costa Rica’s seasons are defined by how much rain falls during a particular period and not to the four in the Northern Hemisphere. The year can be split into two periods, the dry season known to the residents as summer, and the rainy season, known locally as winter. The “summer” or dry season goes from December to April, and “winter” or rainy season (also known as the green season) goes from May to November.
Can I drink the water?
Yes, the water is perfectly safe. Our farm is supplied with municipal water which originates from a mountain stpring. We have a filtration system connected to the water supply as it enters the farm. Additionally, we have a reserve water tank for times when the municipality is repairing village water lines. Water is supplied to the pig palace from a natural spring (called a naciento).
Do I need to know Spanish?
It’s not mandatory, but it’s certainly helpful! English is not spoken extensively, particularly out in the country. The Costa Ricans are extremely helpful, friendly and patient. It would be a good idea to bring along an English-Spanish dictionary. The locals really appreciate when you make an effort to communicate in their language. They also enjoy sharing their knowledge of the English language with visiting guests in the area. If you are being considered to participate in our work-stay program during a time owners are away, it is important to have an intermediate or good conversational Spanish-speaking ability. It is best to bring an English-Spanish dictionary with you for reference.
Some visitors find the cultural differences, including the language barrier, quite challenging. This can be a contributing factor in culture shock, which can be a very real affliction for some. Staying in a non-tourist area is a rewarding experience, as you gain true cultural understanding through your interactions with the community. It is completely unlike travelling to a tourist destination and hanging out with other tourists. Please consider this when planning your volunteer experience. If your sense of adventure compels you to explore life as experienced by the Costa Ricans, then you are on the right path! We welcome you!
What’s the local currency? Are dollars accepted everywhere? Where do I exchange money?
The local currency is the colon (a.k.a colones). The paper money you will be dealing with is in denominations of 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10,000. In rough terms, you can think of these equaling $2, $4, $10 and $20 respectively. The coins range from 5 colones to 500 colones – the 500 colones coin being worth roughly $1.
U.S. dollars are accepted in some places but not everywhere. The best place to exchange dollars for colones is a bank. There they will give you the prevailing rate (which fluctuates daily). We recommend that you get sufficient colones exchanged at the airport to last until you can visit a bank ($50-$100).
What do we eat? Where do we eat?
Plant-based meals are eaten at our on-site cafe. Everyone shares in the preparation and cleanup. Most of the food is simple and sometimes raw. We provide fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. Everyone is involved in the preparation and clean-up. We purchase a large volume of fresh fruits and vegetables weekly for use in breakfast and lunch. We buy local produce. We buy organic, when available, but the supply is very limited in our area. Breakfast and lunch is included on the days you work. We supply pasta, beans and rice for you to prepare for your dinner (veggies, sauces, etc. are on your own). You are responsible for your own meals on your days off. Please, no animal products (meat, cheese, eggs, milk, etc.) of any kind, alcohol or smoking on the farm. There is to be no cooking with oil whatsoever. We do not use refrigeration, so prepare only what you can eat in one sitting, and purchase in quantities which will not spoil before used.
How many volunteers do you have on the farm at the same time?
We typically have from one to six volunteers on the farm at any given point in time. Housing is shared. You may be placed in the casita or in the main house. The projects we have going on the farm are not of such a scale that we need a large number of people helping. Wwoof program participants stay in a tent on the tent platform.
If I have a particular area of expertise, should I let you know?
Absolutely! If you have talent in construction, electrical, farming, animal care, etc., please let us know! If you have a specific area of interest, we would like to know that as well.
Do I need shots to go to Costa Rica?
No, there is no immunization requirement for entry into Costa Rica. We do recommend, however, that you have your tetanus shots up to date. Although many doctors in the US like to recommend rabies vaccinations, rabies is not an issue in Costa Rica. Google the statistics.
What about insurance?
We highly recommend you maintain medical insurance that covers foreign travel emergency. If your insurance plan does not cover you while out of your country of residence, you may be able to buy a travel insurance plan online or from your local agent. If you need medical care while in the country, the clinic or hospital will require payment when the service is rendered (they will not wait for insurance payments). You must have the means to cover this.
What is the healthcare system like in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica has both a public and private healthcare system. The private system is comparable to care you would expect in the United States, but at a fraction of the cost. Dental care in Costa Rica is very reasonably priced as well.
Is Costa Rica safe?
As in any country, there are areas where crime is more prevalent than others. You should excercise caution, and keep close track of your belongings when travelling in the capital region, and while in beach towns frequented by tourists. Cameras, cell phones and laptops are popular items for thieves. Never leave valuables in rental cars or hotel rooms, and watch your backpack and other belongings while on public buses, in your hostels, and while on the beach. Avoid using ATM machines unaccompanied in tourist areas.
That being said, this advice is standard for travellers anywhere in the world. As safety pertains to our farm and our region of Costa Rica, we find it to be very safe. Violent crime is extremely rare. We occasionally see crimes of opportunity, and these types of crimes are completely preventable. We ask all volunteers to keep track of all tools being used, and lock them in our storage bodega at night or when not being used. A shovel left by the roadside will certainly “walk off” if left there overnight. We recommend you store valuables (cameras, laptops, etc.) in the cafe or in the main house if you will be leaving the farm and it will be unattended.
Are there cultural differences or customs I should be aware of?
There are many, and we’re sure you will enjoy discovering them once here. A few things, however, you should be aware of up front. The Costa Ricans are very polite, and formal in many ways. Confrontational behavior in public is unacceptable (and even illegal in certain circumstances). Political candidates rarely speak ill of each other – that should give you an indication of just how different things are here.
You will rarely see adult males wearing shorts, particularly in town. You should always ask permission (by saying con permisso) before entering someone’s house. When you ask a person on the street for directions, it is usually a good idea to ask another person or two, and if you get two sets of directions that concur, follow those (at times they will tell you something even if they don’t know, as they don’t want to disappoint you).
Outside of San Jose and a few of the other major cities in the country, the streets have no names, and houses and buildings have no numbers. Directions are given as distances from landmarks (100 meters east and 200 meters west of the town square or plaza, for example). 100 meters in terms of directions is one city block, regardless of the actual measured distance.
There are enough peculiarities to fill a book, and you will have fun experiencing them!
Will my cell phone work in Costa Rica?
If you have international roaming service on your phone, it should work in Costa Rica – but it may be expensive. Please check with your service provider for details. If you have an unlocked 3g cell phone, it may work in Costa Rica with the purchase of a sim card and service (sim cards cost about $2, and you prepay for your service). Your phone must, however, operate on the GSM 1800 (2g) / UMTS 850 (3g) bands used in Costa Rica. You can visit this site to check for phone compatibility. It is in Spanish, and sometimes the site is not available. Unlocked iPhones will work.,
Our farm is in direct line of sight with a 3g cell tower. If your phone is not fully compatible, it may still work with 2g service – but not on our farm. It will function in the neighboring town of Tucurrique, but service will be spotty in various mountainous areas.
T-Mobile has a cooperative agreement with Costa Rica. If they are your carrier, check with them to see what your options are. Other carriers have agreements as well, so check with them for details.
Is there internet service on the farm? Should I bring my laptop?
We do not provide internet service. There is no wifi on the farm. You can, however, get 3g service on the farm with the purchase of a datacard (available locally for $38 – they also sell mobile hotspot devices for $70). In addition, you will need to purchase a sim card and prepay for a months worth of service ($18), and with that you will get 3g speed sufficient to stream video. The data is capped, but you can add more money to your account many places, including a store waking distance from the farm. The farm is in the line of site with the cell tower.
If you have a Verizon Jetpack 4620L, it will work in Costa Rica in conjunction with a Costa Rica sim card.
If you don’t want to bring your laptop, there are internet cafes located in our neighboring towns of Tucurrique and Pejivalle. If you get a Costa Rican sim card for your phone, you can get internet as well (we recommend the kolbi chip).
What types of electrical plugs are used in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica uses standard 110v U.S.-type plugs. European volunteers will need travel adapters for any electrical devices.
How long can I stay in Costa Rica? What are the visa requirements?
The length of time you are permitted to stay in Costa Rica varies by your country of residence. For residents of the US, you are allowed to remain in the country a total of 90 days. If you are from a country other than the US, check this site for visa requirements. There is also a lot of valuable information on the Costa Rica Embassy page.
VERY IMPORTANT: If you have not booked a round-trip ticket to Costa Rica, you will likely be asked at your airline check-in counter for proof of onward passage from Costa Rica inside the 90 day limit (or the limit for your country of residence). Valid proof of onward passage can include an airline ticket or a bus ticket that specifically takes you out of the country on a specific date (open ended tickets or vouchers won’t work). Note: we have heard from some European travellers that the airline would not accept a bus ticket as valid proof of onward passage. You may want to check with the customer service department of the airline on which you will be flying to verify what they consider acceptable proof of onward passage.
There is no other paperwork or visa applications involved for US residents travelling to Costa Rica (other than having a valid passport that is not set to expire within 90 days of your departure date).
Is there a fee to leave the country?
Yes. There is an air departure tax of around $29 a when leaving the country. This is typically included in your airline ticket’s taxes–but not always. Check with your airline to see if the departure tax has been added to your ticket price.
There is also a small departure tax (around $8) charged at the border if going to Panama or Nicaragua. You can purchase the land departure tax in advance at any Costa Rican bank, or you can buy it at the border and pay a couple of dollars more.
If you have specific questions not covered here, please do not hesitate to contact us.